Categories
People

J.G. Graves

John George Graves (1866-1945) packed a lot into his 79 years. He was a hard-working businessman, councillor, and cared a lot about his adopted city. A much-travelled man, he knew Europe intimately, and visited America, Egypt, South Africa, India, and Palestine, and spoke fluent French, German and Italian.

Seventy-five years after his death, his name still echoes across Sheffield, and yet, we are guilty of under-estimating the influence he had on the city.

J.G. Graves was born in Lincolnshire, grew up in Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire, and was educated at Batley Grammar School. When he was 15, he moved to Sheffield to take up apprenticeship with a German watchmaker in Gibraltar Street, and at the age of 20, he started his own watch-making business in town.

He moved to larger premises in Surrey Street where he expanded his business to include jewellery, cutlery and silverware. His decision to sell goods by mail order was pivotal and, through advertising on the back pages of the national press, became incredibly successful.

Graves was one of the first to embrace the idea of selling goods, notably watches, on ‘monthly’ terms, and by 1903 employed 3,000 people with products sold through extensive catalogues.

Graves was first elected to the city council in 1896 as a Liberal member for the old Nether Hallam Ward and retained his seat for six years. In 1905, he was returned to the Council as a member for the Walkley Ward but did not seek re-election in 1908. His third entry to the Council, again for Walkley, was as an Independent councillor in 1916.

Graves went on to serve as Lord Mayor in 1926 and was granted Freedom of the City in 1929.

“Alderman Graves brings to his work unusual gifts of business acumen and a kindly spirit towards the general welfare of the people,” reported the Sheffield Daily Telegraph in 1930. “A fluent, dignified speaker, with originality of thought, he can marshal facts well and present a case strikingly. He always impresses his hearers by his transparent earnestness and sincerity in whatever cause he is pleading. Truly, he is one of the big men of the Council – big in stature and big in vision.”

However, J.G. Graves should be remembered for being Sheffield’s “Fairy Godfather”, probably the city’s most generous benefactor in its history.

When he died at his home, Riverdale House, at Ranmoor, in 1945, newspapers calculated that he had gifted more than £1 million to the city, that amounts to more than £44 million at today’s value.

His first gift to Sheffield, probably Pearl Street playground in 1903, was the start of small projects for children, but these grew in significance with gifts that included Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet, Barker’s Pool Garden, Concord Park, Graves Art Gallery, Graves Park, Graves Trust Homes, Blacka Moor, and playing fields. He was a generous benefactor to Sheffield University and the Children’s Hospital, gave much of the land forming the green belt around Sheffield, made gifts of land to the National Trust, and at the outbreak of World War Two, made an unconditional gift of £250,000 to the nation.

Graves Art Gallery cost him £20,000 as well as a further £10,000 towards the cost of the Central Library. He had started collecting art in 1899 and throughout his life collected over 3,000 pictures, 700 of which he gave to Sheffield to be displayed in the Graves Gallery.

“It has seemed to me the most natural thing that I should engage in effort and outlay which has for its object the betterment of the city in which my own lot has been cast, and which I love and understand so well.”

Graves had loved the countryside and was a keen cyclist, with one of his ambitions being to provide Sheffield with beautiful open spaces. As well as Concord Park and Graves Park, he provided £10,000 towards the acquisition of Ecclesall Wood and gave much of the land forming the Green Belt around Sheffield.

One such place was Blacka Moor that had been owned by Norton Rural District Council since 1929. The small council was poor and unable to fight off advances from developers and so, in 1933, had approached J.G. Graves as a last resort. He bought the land and duly presented it to the city.

Ethel Haythornthwaite, a prominent environmental campaigner, recalled a conversation she had with Graves at the official opening in 1933.

“Now, after we’ve done all this for you (by ‘we’ he meant the Graves Trust) will you promise to never trouble us again?” I took a deep breath, thought I had better be truthful and said, “Whenever the countryside around Sheffield is in danger, I shall appeal to you.” He looked at me, severely but not unkindly. “Well,” he said, “Now we know.”

After his death, the mail order company was absorbed into Great Universal Stores, but his legacy lives on through The J.G. Graves Charitable Trust, a grant-making body established in 1930 derived from £400,000 of shares of his company.

Today, the Trust is managed by nine trustees, including Adrian Graves, the fourth generation of the family to serve on it, and continues to support projects that relate to the charitable interests of its founder.

These include parks, open spaces, recreation grounds, art galleries and libraries for public use, promotion of education and community projects, and medical, recreational and sporting facilities.

Periodically, the Trust is in a position to make significant contributions including the J.G. Graves of Sheffield Lifeboat (1958), the redesign of Tudor Square (1990), the J.G. Graves Tennis Centre (1991), the J.G. Graves Woodland Discovery Centre (2007) and the purchase of ‘Comfort Blanket’ by Grayson Perry for the City’s art collection in 2016.

Categories
Places

Barker’s Pool Garden

Photograph by Google

It is the “garden at the heart of the city”, and yet, the small plot at the corner of Barker’s Pool and Balm Green has never officially been named. It has been here since 1937, but these days most folk barely give it the time of day.

Barker’s Pool Garden, Balm Green Garden and Fountain Square are three of the names that have been attributed to it. However, when J.G. Graves, to whom Sheffield owes so much, attended the opening in 1937, he thought it unnecessary to give a name to the garden, but he had in mind its proximity to the City War Memorial.

“It will, I hope, provide a note of quiet sympathy which will be in harmony with the feelings of those who visit the War Memorial in the spirit of a visit to a sacred place.”

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

This garden, 400 square yards in size, would never have been created had it not been for the opening of the City Hall in 1932.

The land was owned by the adjacent Grand Hotel, the plot used as a car-park enclosed with advertising hoardings. But to J.G. Graves, it was an “eyesore”, obstructing the view of the splendid new City Hall from the Town Hall and the top of Fargate.

His solution was to negotiate the purchase of the land from the hotel. He paid £25 a square yard and outlined his plans in a letter to the Lord Mayor, Councillor Mrs A.E. Longden: –

“When planning the new City Hall, the architect, in order to give due importance and dignity to the elevation, placed the front of the building at some distance from the existing building line.

“This, of course, enhanced the architectural appearance of the Hall, but has had the incidental result of obstructing a view of the Hall from Fargate and the Town Hall corner, as is partially done now by the hoarding which surrounds the intervening plot of vacant land, and if in due course a tall building should be erected on the plot referred to, the possibility of a view of the City Hall from Fargate and the Town Hall would be completely lost.

“I feel it would be a misfortune if, through lack of action at the present time, building developments should proceed which would permanently deprive the city of an impressive architectural and street view at its very centre.

“With this in mind, I have arranged to buy the plot of land in question at its present day market value, with the intention of establishing thereon a formal garden, already designed by an eminent firm expert in this class of work.

“With this explanation I have the pleasure of offering the piece of land as a gift to the city, together with the garden which I propose to have established thereon at my own expense, and with the condition that the garden shall be maintained by the Corporation in as good a state as it will be when it is handed over on completion of the work.”

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

The gift was a personal one, not connected with the Graves Trust, and duly accepted by Sheffield Corporation.

In 1937, the Grand Hotel announced proposals for extensive alterations and to place their principal entrance on Balm Green. The whole of the corner was now thrown open and the new garden would later adjoin the forecourt to the Grand’s main entrance, running from Barker’s Pool to the building line of the hotel.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

To complete the scheme the Grand Hotel management decided to reface the whole of the side of the hotel with a material approximate to the colour of the stone of the City Hall.

Photograph by Hazel Hickman

The garden had been laid out by “a famous firm of garden landscapers,” railed off from the footpath, with a border of shrubs, crazy paving, a fountain, and a water runway to a lily pond, and various flower beds.

Photograph by Picture Sheffield

A huge crowd gathered for the official opening on August 3, 1937.

“We shall always be proud of this garden, because it is not only a gift for all time,” said the Lord Mayor. “I hope the garden will become a real garden of remembrance for the future generation, who could thank the beauty of mind and heart which prompted the gift.”

Of course, two years later, Britain went to war with Germany again, the symbolism of the garden perhaps lost on the despairing public. However, the garden has remained, although J.G. Graves’ conditions seem to have been forgotten by subsequent councils.

Photograph of the opening by The British Newspaper Archive

The fountain was eventually removed, the condition of the gardens fluctuating between mini-restorations, but its current state is a pale shadow of its original glory.

We might do well to remember the terms of J.G. Graves’ gift, although progress often comes into conflict with the past.

In 2019, initial plans were announced by Changing Sheffield action group (formerly Sheffield City Centre Residents Action Group) to create a unique space featuring ten large musical instruments and mini-trampolines, although the status of the application is unknown.

Photograph by Sheffield History

Categories
Buildings

Radisson Blu

Photograph by Sheffield City Council

Here’s news of an important development in Sheffield’s Heart of the City II programme.

Radisson Blu has been selected by Sheffield City Council as the preferred hotel brand for its flagship Heart of the City II hotel on Pinstone Street, overlooking the Peace Gardens.

The hotel will anchor the new Heart of the City II scheme which is already home to global bank HSBC, and which will shortly welcome prominent international law firm, CMS, who are occupying 45,000 sq. ft of office space later in the year.

Part of Block A in Heart of the City II, the hotel will be housed in the striking Victorian architecture towards the top end of Pinstone Street, adjacent to the Barclays building on the corner. It is expected to feature over 150 rooms and will have a prominent location with views of the Peace Gardens.

Developed by Sheffield City Council and its strategic delivery partner, Queensberry, Block A sits between Pinstone Street, Burgess Street and Barker’s Pool. Providing a key gateway to the Heart of the City II district from the east, Block A will also feature premium retail units at street level and 45,000 sq. ft of office or residential space.

Radisson Blu is an international chain of 328 ‘upper upscale’ hotels operated by the Radisson Hotel Group. Its origins go back to 1960, with the opening of the SAS Royal Denmark Hotel in Copenhagen, the group rebranded from Radisson SAS in 2009.

At present, the nearest Radisson Blu hotels are in Derby, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham and York.

Categories
Buildings People

Walter Gerard Buck

This influential character is relatively unknown in Sheffield’s history. A modest person, he was responsible for one of the city’s iconic landmarks.

Walter Gerard Buck (1863-1934) was born in Beccles, Suffolk, the youngest son of Edward Buck. He was educated at the Albert Memorial College in Framlingham, and acquired an interest in architecture, joining the practice of Arthur Pells, a reputable Suffolk architect and surveyor, where he learned the techniques to design and build.

Walter Gerard Buck, architect and surveyor (1863-1934)

Walter, aged 21, realised there were limitations to this rural outpost and would need to improve his talent elsewhere. This opportunity arose in Manchester, the seat of the industrial revolution, where demand for new commercial buildings was great. It was here where he gained several years’ experience in large civil engineering and architectural works, including the building of the Exchange Station, Manchester, as well as the Exchange Station and Hotel in Liverpool.

Liverpool Exchange Street Station and Hotel. The frontage remains and in the 1980s was incorporated into the Mercury Court office development. It has recently been converted into 21st century office space called ‘Exchange Station’. (Image: Alan Young)
Manchester Exchange Station was a railway station located in Salford, immediately to the north of Manchester city centre. It served the city between 1884 and 1969. The station was closed on 5 May 1969. (Image: National Railway Museum)

In 1890, his reputation growing, Walter made the move over the Pennines and into the practice of Mr Thomas Henry Jenkinson at 4 East Parade.

Jenkinson had been an architect in Sheffield for over forty years. He had been responsible for several buildings built in the city centre, taking advantage that Sheffield had been one of the last among the big towns to take in hand the improvement of its streets and their architecture.

Buck’s move to Sheffield proved advantageous. Jenkinson had become a partner at Frith Brothers and Jenkinson in 1862, which he continued until 1898, when he retired. He made Walter his chief assistant and allowed him to reorganise the business and control affairs for several years. During this period Walter carried out work on many commercial buildings and factories in Sheffield.

Initially, Walter boarded in lodgings at 307 Shoreham Street, close to the city centre. He married Louisa Moore Kittle in 1892 and, once his reputation had been established, was able to purchase his own house at 4 Ventnor Place in Nether Edge.

A letter from Walter to the Sheffield Daily Telegraph (8 Nov 1905)

Perhaps Walter Buck’s greatest work also proved to be his most short-lived.

In May 1897, Queen Victoria made her last visit to Sheffield for the official opening of the Town Hall. It also coincided with the 60th year of her reign – Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Year.

The visit caused considerable excitement in Sheffield and preparations lasted for weeks. Shops and offices advertised rooms that commanded the best positions to see the Queen. Not surprisingly, these views were quickly occupied, but the closest view was promised in the Imperial Grandstand, specially designed for the occasion by Walter Gerard Buck.

Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee visit to Sheffield in May 1897. The central interest was the newly-built Town Hall where ‘the gilded gates stood closed until her majesty touched the golden key and they flew open’.

This spectacle was built next to the newly-erected Town Hall, opposite Mappin and Webb, on Norfolk Street (in modern terms this would be where the Peace Gardens start at the bottom-end of Cheney Walk across towards Browns brasserie and bar). It was advertised as ‘absolutely the best and most convenient in the city’, with a frontage of nearly 200 feet and ‘beautifully roofed in’. The stand, decorated in an artistic manner by Piggott Brothers and Co, provided hundreds of seats, the first three rows being carpeted with back rests attached to the back. In addition, the stand provided a lavatory, refreshment stalls and even a left luggage office. It was from here that the people of Sheffield saw Queen Victoria as the Royal procession passed within a few feet of the stand along Norfolk Street to Charles Street.

The next day the Imperial Grandstand was dismantled.

The professional relationship between Walter Buck and Thomas Jenkinson matured into a close friendship.

When Jenkinson died in 1900, he left the business to Walter and made him one of his executors. His son, Edward Gerard Buck, eventually joined the business which became known as Buck, Lusby and Buck, moving to larger premises at 34 Campo Lane.

In 1906, Walter was elected to the Council of the Sheffield, South Yorkshire and District Society of Architects and Surveyors and was elected President in 1930. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and a member of the council of that body.

Walter also became a member of the council of the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Court of Governors of Sheffield University, a member and director of the Sheffield Athenaeum Club, a member of the Nether Edge Proprietary Bowling Club and vice-president of the Sheffield Rifle Club. It was this last role that he enjoyed best. Walter was a keen swimmer but his passion for rifle shooting kept him busy outside of work.

Apart from architectural work Walter held directorships with the Hepworth Iron Company and the Sheffield Brick Company. These astute positions allowed him to negotiate the best prices for the building materials needed to complete his projects.

A familiar site on Sheffield’s streets. The Sheffield Brick Company had brickyards situated at Neepsend, Grimesthorpe, Wincobank and Wadsley Bridge. Materials were used in many of the city’s buildings including Sheffield University, the Grand Hotel and the Town Hall. (Image: Sheffield History)

However, as the new century dawned, it was a role outside of architecture that occupied Walter’s time.

In 1892 the French Lumière brothers had devised an early motion-picture camera and projector called the Cinématographe. Their first show came to London in 1896 but the first moving pictures developed on celluloid film were made in Hyde Park in 1889 by William Friese Greene. The ‘new’ technology of silent movies exploded over the next few years and by 1906 the first ‘electric theatres’ had started to open. In London, there were six new cinemas, increasing to 133 by 1909.

Not surprisingly, this new sensation rippled across Britain and Sheffield was no exception. This had been pioneered by the Sheffield Photo Company, run by the Mottershaw family, who displayed films in local halls. They also pioneered the popular ‘chase’ genre in 1903 which proved significant for the British film industry. The Central Hall, in Norfolk Street, was effectively Sheffield’s first cinema opening in 1905, but the films were always supported with ‘tried and tested’ music hall acts. Several theatres started experimenting with silent movies, but it was the opening of the Sheffield Picture Palace in 1910, on Union Street, that caused the most excitement. This was the first purpose built cinema and others were looking on with interest.

Walter Buck was one such person and saw the opportunity to increase business by designing these new purpose-built cinemas. One of his first commissions was for Lansdowne Pictures Ltd who had secured land on the corner of London Road and Boston Street. The Lansdowne Picture Palace opened in December 1914, built of brick with a marble terracotta façade in white and green, with a Chinese pagoda style entrance. It was a vast building seating 1,250 people. In the same year he designed the Western Picture Palace at Upperthorpe for the Western Picture Palace Ltd.

The Lansdowne Picture Palace was designed by architect Walter Gerard Buck of Campo Lane, Sheffield. It stands at the junction of London Road and Boston Street and opened on 18th December 1914.  In 1947 the cinema became a temporary store for Marks & Spencers. In the 1950’s it became a Mecca Dance Hall called the ‘Locarno’ later changing into ‘Tiffany’s Night Club’. It had several more reincarnations as a night club with different names and the frontage was painted black, its last name being ‘Bed’. (Image: Cinema Treasures)
The Weston Picture Palace, designed by Walter Gerard Buck in 1913-14. The cinema was on St Phillip’s Road and Mitchell Street and was demolished. (Image: Sheffield History)

With the knowledge required to build cinemas it was unsurprising that Walter Buck was asked to join several companies as a director. One of these was Sheffield and District Cinematograph Theatres Ltd which was formed in 1910 for ‘the purpose of erecting and equipping in the busiest and most thickly populated parts of the City of Sheffield and district picture theatres on up-to-date lines’. Its first cinema was the Electra Palace Theatre in Fitzalan Square with a seating capacity upwards of 700 with daily continuous shows. Their second cinema was the Cinema House built adjoining the Grand Hotel and adjacent to Beethoven House (belonging to A Wilson & Peck and Co) on Fargate, this part later becoming Barker’s Pool. This was a much grander cinema with a seating capacity of 1,000 together with luxuriously furnished lounge and refreshment, writing and club rooms.

Ironically, Walter Buck did not design either of these picture houses. Instead, they were conceived by John Harry Hickton and Harry E. Farmer from Birmingham and Walsall, but the bricks were supplied by the Sheffield Brick Company, that lucrative business where Walter was a director. It should not go unnoticed that this highly profitable company probably made Walter a wealthy man. It had already supplied bricks for the Grand Hotel, Sheffield University and the Town Hall.

Opened as the Electra Palace on 10th February 1911. It was designed by J.H. Hickton & Harry E. Farmer of Birmingham & Walsall. Constructed by George Longden & Son Ltd. (who built several Sheffield cinemas), the proprietors being Sheffield & District Cinematograph Theatres Ltd. (Image: Sheffield History)
Opened in 1913, the Cinema House seated 800 and was one of the smaller city centre cinemas. Boasting a tea room, it had a narrow auditorium and patrons entered from the screen end of the hall. Being narrow, it’s Cinemascope image size was severely restricted. It closed in 1961 and was subsequently demolished. (Image: Cinema Treasures)

The cinema undertaking was not without risk and Cinema House, which opened six months before the start of World War One, always struggled to break even.

In 1920, far from building new cinemas right across the city, the company bought the Globe Picture House at Attercliffe. The following year they reported losses of £7,000 with Cinema House blamed for the poor performance.

At this stage, it is unclear as to what involvement Walter Buck had with Sheffield and District Cinematograph Theatres. He was also a director of Sunbeam Pictures Ltd, designing the Sunbeam Picture House at Fir Vale in 1922, and the Don Picture Palace at West Bar. He was most certainly a director of the Sheffield and District Cinematograph Company  by the late 1920s, and eventually became its chairman. In 1930, absurdly on hindsight, he was faced with a public backlash as the company made the transfer over to ‘talkie’ pictures.

“It was true that some people preferred the silent pictures, but the difficulty was that the Americans were producing very few silent films, or the directors might probably have kept some of the houses on silent films to see if they could hold their own with the talkie halls.”

Located on Attercliffe Common at the junction with Fell Road. The Globe Picture Hall was a venture of the Sheffield Picture Palace Co. Ltd. It opened on 10th February 1913 and was, at that time, one of the largest cinemas in Sheffield. The architects were Benton & Roberts. The owning company reformed on 21st March 1914 as the Sheffield & District Cinematograph Theatres Ltd. and remained owners until closure on 29th June 1959. (Image: Cinema Treasures)
The Sunbeam Picture House was built on Barnsley Road at the junction of Skinnerthorpe Road in the Fir Vale district of Sheffield. The Sunbeam Picture House opened on Saturday 23rd December 1922. It was built set back from the road and was an imposing brick and stucco building, with a large embossed rising sun motif on the facade, set inside an ornamental parapet. A central entrance to the cinema was covered with a canopy. (Image: Sheffield History)
The Don Picture Palace opened on Monday 18th November 1912 with the films “Captain Starlight” and “Monarchs Of The Prairie”. The architect was Henry Patterson and it was situated in what was then one of the main entertainment areas of Sheffield with the old Grand Theatre of Varieties being close by. (Image: Sheffield History)

Walter Buck never retired but died at his home at 19, Montgomery Road, Nether Edge, aged 70, in September 1934. He left a widow, his second wife, Fanny Buck, and three sons – Edward Gerard Buck, William Gerard Buck, a poultry farmer, and Charles Gerard Buck, chartered accountant. Walter Gerard Buck was buried at Ecclesall Church.

It seems the only epitaph to Walter Buck is the Chinese pagoda style entrance of the Lansdowne Picture Palace. The auditorium was demolished to make way for student accommodation, but the frontage was retained for use as a Sainsbury’s ‘Local’ supermarket. Very little information exists about his other work in the city and further research is needed to determine which buildings he designed, and which remain. Any information would be most welcome.

All that remains of the former Lansdowne Picture Palace. The frontage and Chinese-style pagoda were retained for this Sainsbury’s Local supermarket, soon to become Budgens. (Image: Cinema Treasures)
Categories
Buildings

Area Sheffield

To our kids, this mirrored glass and garish red steelwork building on Burgess Street is just another nightclub. This is what it’s been on-and-off for twenty-five years, much longer than the function it was originally built for.

It was constructed by the Rank Organisation in 1986-1987 as a brand new Odeon Cinema, a replacement for the outdated, but much loved Gaumont Cinema (originally the Regent Theatre) demolished in 1985.

The Odeon opened in August 1987 with two auditoriums seating 500 and 324 people apiece.

Making use of the Gaumont’s footprint, the entrance on Burgess Street was approximately where the old Gaumont stage once stood, allowing the space in Barker’s Pool to be used for retail units.

The building itself was hated by locals, its only saving grace being a giant mural on the main staircase, painted by local artist Joe Scarborough depicting the history of Sheffield.

However, its days were numbered when a seven-screen Odeon opened at the redundant Fiesta nightclub on Arundel Gate in 1992. The bosses at Rank quickly realised it wasn’t cost effective to run two cinemas in the city centre, and one had to go.

The Burgess Street premises were closed in 1994.

But what happened to Joe Scarborough’s mural?

After standing empty, it was later converted into Kingdom nightclub, later known as Embrace, now Area. And locals still detest the building.

Categories
Streets

Barker’s Pool

A prominent street with a name that has been familiar for centuries. In Barker Pool, or Barker’s Pool as we now know it, we have the first attempt to give the inhabitants of Sheffield a constant supply of pure water.

The tradition is that one Mr Barker, of Balm Green, in 1434, took steps to make some sort of reservoir for the storage of water supplied by springs.

All we know for certain, is that in this year, there had been a “Barker of Balm”, and that there had been a William Barkar in 1379.

“Barker Powle” is mentioned in a deed of 1567, and in 1570 the Burgery was ‘amerced’ in the sum of 3s. 3d., paid as a fine, or rent, to the Lord of the Manor, for the pool.

From this date until 1786, the cleansing and keeping of the pool was acknowledged as one of the specific charges upon the town property.

Indeed, we can bring it to a later date than this, for after the pool, superseded by a more efficient water supply, had been removed as a nuisance in 1793, the Town Trustees put up a pump nearby which remained, although unused in later years, until 1876.

The pool was an oblong, walled space, about 36 yards by 20, not quite right-angled, for it was slightly wider at its upper than at its lower end, and ran across what eventually became the entrance to Division Street.

It appears that Barker Pool was, on occasion, used for ducking undesirable characters, for in the constables’ accounts for 1654, there is a charge for bringing the cucking stool (from Lady’s Bridge) up to Barker Pool. (Cucking stools or ducking stools, were chairs used for punishment of disorderly women, scolds (troublesome and angry people who habitually chastised, argued and quarrelled with their neighbours) and dishonest tradesmen.

We get our best description of the part the pool played in the local economy from the autobiography of Samuel Roberts in 1849.

In it, he gives a vivid account of the excitement caused amongst residents in the streets down which the channels passed, when periodical flushings afforded a general clean-up of the town: –

“All the channels were then in the middle of the streets which were generally in a very disorderly state, manure heaps often lying in them for a week together. About once every quarter the water was let out of Barker Pool, to run into all these streets into which it could be turned, for the purpose of cleansing them. The bellman gave notice of the exact time, and the favoured streets were all bustle, with a row of men, women and children on each side of the channel, anxiously and joyfully awaiting, with mops, brooms, and pails, the arrival of the cleansing flood, whose first appearance was announced by a long, continuous shout. Some people were throwing the water up against their houses and windows; some raking the garbage into the kennel; some washing their pigs; some sweeping the pavement; youngsters throwing water on their companions or pushing them into the widespread torrent. Meanwhile a constant, Babel-like uproar, mixed with the barking of dogs, and the grunting of pigs, was heard both above and below, till the waters, after about half an hour, had become exhausted.”

Barker Pool was also used when fires broke out in the town, water being let out of the reservoir, and leather buckets hung in the Church and Town Hall for residents to use. By 1703, the Town Trustees had improved on this by providing a fire engine.

And that, as they say, is the history of why we call it Barker’s Pool all these years later.

Categories
Buildings

Fountain Precinct

It’s 45-years old and occupies a prime location in Sheffield city centre. The Fountain Precinct, in buff and brown tiles, at Barker’s Pool, is probably one of our best known office blocks, opened in 1974 (or 1976, according to Harman and Minnis) on the site of the demolished Grand Hotel. The eight-storey building was designed by Sidney Kaye, Firmin and Partners, and is owned by Kames Property Income Fund, which has announced a £3.5million modernisation programme complete with a new shop or restaurant on the ground floor. Current Occupiers include Handlesbanken, 7 Legal and Finance, Aon Ltd, Quidco and tech firm 3Squared, but is a third empty.

Categories
Sculpture

City War Memorial

In 2009, when Philip Laing, a university student, got drunk and urinated on Sheffield’s War Memorial in Barker’s Pool, he didn’t realise he’d suffer the wrath of the city, as well as the rest of the country. He was spared jail and ended up quitting his university course.

Enthusiasm is still felt for the City War Memorial, erected in 1925, “to create a sacred centre where the people of Sheffield may meet on Armistice Day, and where the bereaved can lay their wreaths, and see the flag hoisted half-mast to honour their dead.”

In 1923, the Lord Mayor, F.C. Fenton, launched an appeal, aimed at ratepayers, to fund a memorial already designed by architect Emanuel Vincent Harris, an 80-foot high obelisk, to be sited at the junction of Townhead Street and Church Street.

The plan was abandoned due to being “unsuitable in design and location.”

However, the War Memorial Subcommittee was persuaded to consider a new design in front of the proposed City Hall. It launched a competition to select a more suitable design, restricted to artists working, or with practices, in the city. The contest attracted 34 entries; the winning design chosen by E. Vincent Harris.

The final design was by Charles Canus-Wilson, the architect, with George Alexander responsible for the sculptured designs of the figures.

The Grade II-listed City War Memorial is set on a bronze case, with the sculptures on a granite plinth, into which is set a flagpole, over 100 feet in length and weighing nine tons, with a bronze crown.

The panels on the base, near the Sheffield coat-of-arms, shows emblems of the Royal Navy, the Merchant Navy, the Army and the Royal Flying Corps.

Below these, are insignias to commemorate the Yorkshire Dragoons (Queen’s Own) South Africa 1900-1902, the Royal Engineers, the Tanks Corps, the Yorkshire and Lancashire Regiment, the Royal Army Service Corps and the Army Medical Corps.

There are also four figures of four ordinary soldiers, heads bowed, and rifles reversed, standing on a ledge above an octagonal pedestal. It was originally to have had four females standing between the soldiers, but these were lost to save money.

The cost of the memorial was £5,345, funds coming from the Lord Mayor’s Appeal, fund-raising performances at Sheffield’s 44 theatres, music halls and cinemas, collection boxes in shops, the university and schools, a “Flag day” and a contribution from the British War Graves Association.

The bronze was cast by Conrad Parlanty Castings Ltd of Herne Bay, while the flagpole was made by Earle’s Shipbuilders and Engineers, Hull.

The flagpole arrived at The Wicker by rail, occupying six trucks, and was manoeuvred through the streets using steam-tractors during the early hours of the morning. It was designed to be the same height as the City Hall (opened in 1932) and was set 20-feet into the ground for stability.

The City War Memorial was unveiled on 28 October 1925, by Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Charles H. Harington, GBE, KCB, DSO.

During the December Blitz of 1940, a bomb exploded near its base, causing the six-ton bronze base to shift five inches out of position. It was repaired in 1949, parts of the memorial dismantled and taken to Herne Bay at a cost of £680.

In 2005, the memorial was assessed, and a £60,000 programme of essential repairs carried out by Rupert Harris Conservation. The mast was treated for corrosion and repainted, and the crown and ball at the top of the mast re-gilded using 24-carat gold leaf.

Interestingly, the 1940 shrapnel damage remains, kept as a reminder of the memorial’s history and purpose.

Categories
Buildings Companies

Cole Brothers

There was a time, not that long ago, when this department store at Barker’s Pool was scheduled for demolition.

The ill-fated Sevenstone retail project earmarked shiny new premises for John Lewis on the site of the old fire station on Wellington Street. When that scheme stumbled, replaced with the more sympathetic Heart of the City II development, John Lewis said they were staying put.

For the modernists amongst us, it was a welcome reprieve for a building that was constructed between 1961-1965 for Cole Brothers, renamed John Lewis in 2002.

The land on which it stands was once site of the Albert Hall, destroyed by fire in 1937. There was talk of a new Gaumont Cinema in its place, but it never materialised. After World War Two, Sheffield Corporation bought the plot for proposed new law courts, but again these never happened, the land subsequently acquired by Cole Brothers.

The design was conceived by Yorke, Rosenberg & Mardall, an architectural company set up in 1944 by Francis Reginald Stevens Yorke (1906-1962), an Englishman, Eugene Rosenberg (1907-1990), born in Slovakia, practising in Prague before World War Two, and Finnish-born Cyril Mardall (1909-1994).

The practice attracted talent from around the world, including David Allford (1927-1997), Sheffield-born, a graduate of the University of Sheffield and lifelong Sheffield Wednesday supporter.

Allford, who went on to become chairman, had a hand in Gatwick Airport, several large hospitals including St. Thomas’ in London and Hull Royal Infirmary, numerous comprehensive schools and offices, Warwick University, and Cole Brothers department store in his home city.

Built by Trollope & Colls (later Trafalgar House Construction), the store is clad in the architects’ hallmark white tiles with panels of brown mosaic to the window bays. The surface was inspired by Le Corbusier’s use of tiles on the entrance drum of the Armée de Salut (1929) in Paris, and the General Pensions Institute (1929-1934) in Prague, designed by Havlicek and Karel Honzik, and worked on by Eugene Rosenberg.

Rectangular in design, it was the replacement for Cole Brothers’ old premises on the corner of Fargate and Church Street (celebrated in Richard Hawley’s song ‘Coles Corner’), outdated and sold for £1million in 1962.

Spread across five floors, the new Cole Brothers store contained sixty departments, with access to each level from a multi-ramp carpark, accommodating 400 cars.

Innovative as the design may have been, the carpark became notorious for suicides, many people jumping from the building’s top deck, up until the time wire fencing was erected.

These days, the department store is looking rather tired, the white tiles in need of a deep-clean and counting the days to its restoration.

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Buildings

Sheffield City Hall

Once upon a time, back in 1932, a war of words existed between Sheffield City Council and the local ex-servicemen’s Association (embracing 20,000 members) concerning the name to be attached to the new Civic Hall.

The councillors wanted it to become Sheffield City Hall, the ex-servicemen preferred Sheffield Memorial Hall.

Such was the level of feeling that the ex-servicemen wrote to King George V hoping to bring the matter to his attention.

The reply when it came offered no solution. “I am directed by the Secretary of State to inform you that the matter has been laid before the King, but the Secretary of State regrets he was unable to advise His Majesty to issue any commands thereon.”

When it opened in September 1932, the canvas covers above the front doors were removed to reveal it would be called Sheffield City Hall, its crowning glory being the large Oval Hall inside.

However, by means of compromise, the smaller half-moon hall at the back was called the Memorial Hall, more famous now as being weekend home to the Last Laugh Comedy Club.